Qianhai special zone architect Patrick Lau plans water and greenery for pedestrians

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 4:54am

Hailed as the Manhattan of southern China before it's even built, the Qianhai special economic zone in Shenzhen will offer a better quality of life than Hong Kong, says the landscape architect who is drafting the planning guidelines.

Hongkonger Patrick Lau Hing-tat said his concept would create rivers and emphasise the pedestrian environment. A network of waterways and green space would be drawn up first, and other infrastructure would be built around it.

Developments near major waterways will be required to split the site 50/50 between building space and greenery.

"It means instead of putting pedestrians close to vehicle emissions, they will be walking by the riverside, under the shade of trees," said Lau.

Lau, a Town Planning Board member who is frustrated by Hong Kong's red tape and lack of creativity, said most new-town planning prioritised transport and other public utilities. "Pedestrian links and green space are the last things planned in a new town."

Qianhai is earmarked to become an international financial centre. To this end, legal, financial and planning experts from Hong Kong have been asked for their input.

Lau, whose company Earthasia Design Group was behind the landscape designs for the Hong Kong Disneyland site and the Beijing Olympic Village, is introducing its "blue-green infrastructure" concept into Qianhai with joint-venture partners BLY Design Institute and Plasma Studio.

Qianhai will sit on 15 square kilometres of reclaimed land, and its three commercial districts will be intertwined with three artificial rivers created as a continuation of the natural waterways flowing from its backdrop of mountains. Various wetland habitats will be created to attract birds and insects.

"Rain gardens" will help retain storm water for irrigation and link buildings within the districts.

The channels will be accompanied by tree-lined walkways and bicycle tracks, while cars and trucks will be kept on the opposite riverbanks.

"The rivers and rain gardens, usually designed as underground water pipes in Hong Kong, are likely to reduce surface run-off and stress on the drainage system. It will lower the air temperature as well," Lau said.

About 20 parks will be distributed throughout the core areas of the financial centre.

"With creativity, the requirement will not cost developers any floor space. For example, a building can be split and the atrium under the blocks can be turned into a piece of lawn. Vertical and rooftop greening are also welcomed."

Asked if the plan, to be finalised next month, can be fully realised, Lau said: "At least the Qianhai Authority is bold enough to think and to act."